The Phony Campaign

2016-02-28 Update

We look at PredictWise every week to determine which candidates to gather hit counts for. It has become an increasingly depressing exercise, as the chances for candidates we even slightly like range from slim to none.

Oh well. We're doomed.

In our standings, Bernie and Hillary swap second and third place:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-02-21
"Donald Trump" phony 403,000 +145,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 216,000 +115,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 181,000 +73,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 137,000 +87,600

In phony news this past week:

  • There was an acrimonious GOP debate! For phony fans, the high point was when Rubio accused Trump of starting a "fake university". This is in reference to "Trump University"; the NYT describes the "University", if you're interested.

    One particularly poignant sucker was Kathleen Meese; she attended the first free "class", which was essentially a sales pitch to shell out $1495 for a three-day real estate seminar. Then she was encouraged to pony up for the "Gold Elite" program ($25000). And then…

    Seminar participants, [Ms. Meese] said, were told they would have their photos taken with Mr. Trump.

    “It ended up being a cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump,” she wrote.

    Was there ever so apt a symbol? As P.T. Barnum (probably never) said: there's one born every minute. And Trump's success at the polls is depressing verification of that.

  • Our girl Hillary showed her firm grasp of America's foundational documents:

    Hillary Clinton cited a “constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in an interview that aired Wednesday with Steve Harvey, apparently forgetting those words are in the Declaration of Independence.

    Forgot? Or never knew? Whatever. At this point, what difference does it make? It's not as if she has taken either the Declaration or the Constitution seriously, or plans to do so in the future.

    I would guess that when Hillary watched Animal House, she did not get the joke when Bluto asked "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

  • The Conservative Tribune opines:

    It might just be time for Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders to quit his phony anti-establishment act and admit to being a fraud, because on Thursday, election regulators announced that his campaign had violated federal campaign finance laws by accepting 3,457 “excessive, prohibited and impermissible donations.”

    To echo a comment I left at Granite Grok: I must be feeling unusually cynical today, as I'm wondering if the (well-publicized) FEC announcement is a hit job fueled by pro-Hillary partisans. I'm not saying they are operating under direct orders from the Hillary campaign. I just wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that way.

  • Famous lunatic Alex Jones claims Roger Stone has the inside info on a Koch Brothers Secret Plan! And that is cleverly named "Plan B".

    The Koch Bros. met with GOP millionaires and billionaires Thursday night to pool together over $75 million to stop Trump and are going to use Mitt Romney as ‘Plan B’ if Rubio fails to gain traction on Super Tuesday, according to moles who were inside the meeting.

    Sounds crazy. Like most information emanating from Jones. But, hey, what do I know?

    "Plan B" is to go into action if Marco doesn't win the Florida primary. And http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/fl/florida_republican_presidential_primary-3555.html current polling has Trump leading Rubio by 20 points there. So perhaps we'll find out on March 16 or so.

The Evolution of Everything

How New Ideas Emerge

[Amazon Link]

There's a well-known saying popularized by Isaiah Berlin: "a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing". Thus distinguishing between thinkers whose worldview is dominated by a Big Ass Idea, and those who draw from more diverse sources.

Check out the title of Matt Ridley's recent book; which category does he fall into, do you think?

That's not to say that the book isn't fun, provocative, and usually insightful. It is! His overall theme is, on many occasions, just not convincingly or even plausibly applied.

All chapters are titled "The Evolution of X", where X is, respectively, the Universe, Morality, Life, Genes, Culture, the Economy, Technology, the Mind, Personality, Education, Population, Leadership, Government, Religion, Money, the Internet, and (epilogue) the Future. Each enthuses over emergent orders, bottom-up innovation, and unplanned combinations. Ridley optimistically views such development as generally progressive and beneficial. (Not "progressive" in the modern political sense, of course.) Such processes are not inevitably good, but that's the way to bet.

Since Ridley sees "evolution" in all these areas, he also usually detects the know-nothing forces of "creationism" in opposition. This is usually simpatico with my own views, so I didn't mind it that much. Especially in this political season, when it's hard not to be dismayed at the array of hucksters who promise to effortlessly "solve problems" by Intelligently Designing just the right array of taxes, regulations, mandates, subsidies, prohibitions,… (Even more dismaying: the gullibility of the voters who seem to be buying it.)

Ridley is less convincing in other areas. In the "Evolution of the Mind" chapter, he finds it necessary to debunk "the illusion of free will". I've always found such arguments to be self-refuting. He approvingly quotes the philosopher Sam Harris as a sage explicator; when I read Harris's book, I thought it was sloppy and unconvincing.

There's an interesting section where Ridley admits that he is "not a fan of patents and copyright laws." This makes sense: if progress results from "ideas having sex" in unpredictable and unplanned combinations, patents and copyrights are like condoms and morning-after pills, preventing beneficial offspring.

I note, however, that Ridley's book is copyrighted, and has the "no part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner" boilerplate up front. So we aren't in Ridley's ideal world yet.

Big Ass Spider!

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

How can one not help but like a movie titled Big Ass Spider!. Yes, with the exclamation point. Like Airplane! or … well, it turns out to be way more common than you might have thought.

It stars Greg Grunberg as the good-hearted exterminator Alex Mathis. Alex is excellent at his profession, because (he claims) he can think like the pests he is hired to eliminate. Never mind that his most loyal customers tend to pay him with fruitcake instead of dollars. He's doing what he loves.

But a nasty spider bite takes him to the local hospital. Which, coincidentally, also contains a morgue dealing with a corpse, which … aieee! … is serving as a hatchery for a mutant breed of killer arachnid. Look out, morgue attendant! Ooops, too late.

Pretty soon, the US Army is revealed to have been the source of this horrible experiment gone awry. Leland Palmer himself, Ray Wise, shows up as the Army officer in charge of capturing or killing the Big Ass Spider, and he's accompanied by fetching Lt. Karly. But it soon becomes apparent that they need the exterminating help that only Alex can provide.

It's not exactly sophistated humor, but I am easily amused, and chuckled throughout.

The Phony Campaign

2016-02-21 Update

South Carolina Republicans have spoken, and the prediction marketeers at PredictWise are ruthless this morning, judging only four people with a 2%-or-greater chance at the US Presidency. Gone: not only Jeb!, but Cruz and Bloomberg, too. That makes our phony lineup look like this:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-02-14
"Donald Trump" phony 258,000 +147,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 108,000 -57,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 101,000 -2,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 49,400 -5,200

  • Our new phony front-runner is one Donald J. Trump. Unfortunately, our Google method can not distinguish between hit counts caused by "X is a phony" and those caused by "X calls Y a phony."

    For example, here's Trump's reaction to an NBC/WSJ poll of nationwide Republicans showing Cruz with a slim lead over Trump:

    "That phony Wall Street Journal poll that came out yesterday was, in my opinion, it was a fix....It was a Rupert Murdoch hit. It was just a Rupert Murdoch hit," Trump told SiriusXM's Breitbart News Daily on Thursday.

    Uh, fine. Except I see a problem: the roughly contemporaneous Fox News poll of the race showing Trump up by 17% over Cruz. Quiz: Fox News is owned by…?

    I will assume that you know, or have looked up, the answer.

    Murdoch is pretty inept at orchestrating "fixes" and "hits", if he manages to rig a poll half-commissioned by one of his companies, and forgets to rig another.

    Simpler explanation: Trump is a paranoid blowhard, quick to sling made-up baseless accusations at the slightest hint of bad news. Just what we need in a President!

  • You might think Scott Johnson of Power Line belabors the obvious:

    Hillary Clinton is false in everything, a gold-plated phony seemingly incapable of uttering a true word. She lies with abandon. She lies with the ease of a pathological liar. Everyone knows it. Everyone sees it.

    This is spurred by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley's interview with Hillary, where he asks "Have you always told the truth?" You'll be shocked by her answer!

    No, wait, kidding. You won't be shocked by her answer.

  • On Bernie's website, his speech to the UAW in Detroit is described:

    Bernie Sanders came to a United Auto Workers union hall in Detroit on Monday night to talk about disastrous trade policies. “You don’t need a PhD in economics to know these trade agreements were phony from Day One,” Sanders told 1,250 workers.

    Bernie might have continued: "In fact, when you're opposing free trade agreements, it really helps to know nothing about economics at all." (Recommended NYT reading: Greg Mankiw "Economists Actually Agree on This: The Wisdom of Free Trade".)

    Bernie's website article does manage to catch out some real phoniness:

    [Hillary Clinton] has praised past trade agreements and once called the Pacific trade deal “the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” Last Oct. 8, however, she said that “as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.

    Hm. A dimwitted demagogic socialist versus a slippery demagogic prevaricator. Democrats face a tough choice there.

  • The Rubio campaign was livid over a photo that appeared on the Cruz campaign's website "The REAL Rubio Record". It purports to show Rubio enthusiastically shaking hands with Obama, and is allegedly a Photoshopped fake.

    On Thursday, Buzz Jacobs, a senior adviser to the Rubio campaign in South Carolina, said the photo was phony during a conference call with reporters. “I think it continues a pattern of dishonest tactics and dirty tricks that the Cruz campaign has become known for,” Jacobs said.

    As near as I can tell, the photo has now been replaced with an actual photo of Rubio enthusiastically shaking hands with Obama.

    So now what, Marco?

Rise of the Guardians

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another ostensibly-for-kids movie that Mrs. Salad and I thoroughly enjoyed. Part of the secret was revealed in the credits: based on a book by William Joyce. We used to read his wonderful books to the kids. A lot of his genius shines through here, in both the inventive animation and the storytelling.

The main protagonist is Jack Frost: his origin is mysterious, in the sense that he doesn't remember how he got to be Jack Frost at all. But he enjoys giving kids snow days and fun times in the frigid temperatures.

Still, something's missing. He's given a chance to find it when he is invited to go on an important mission with the good-guy Guardians: Santa, Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Their nemesis is "Pitch Black", aka the Boogeyman. He has a nefarious plot to defang the Guardians by making the children of the world disbelieve in them. And henceforth the world shall be in the thrall of darkness, fear, and hatred.

It's fun to have a bad guy that's really bad.

It's full of beauty and humor. Plenty of sight gags in Santa's workshop.

The Phony Campaign

2016-02-14 Update

Unexpectedly! Michael Bloomberg has gained just enough serious betting money to (again) satisfy our 2% PredictWise criterion for inclusion. And after weeks of not much movement in our hit count standings, Bernie has jumped up from fourth to first place. (Disclaimer: could be a Google Glitch.)

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-02-07
"Bernie Sanders" phony 165,000 +98,500
"Donald Trump" phony 111,000 +3,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 103,000 +4,900
"Ted Cruz" phony 67,000 +400
"Marco Rubio" phony 54,600 +1,300
"Jeb Bush" phony 36,400 -2,400
"Michael Bloomberg" phony 8,940 ---

  • So what's behind Bernie's sudden phony showing? Well, he delivered a doleful drubbing to Hillary in the New Hampshire Primary. And…

    Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded by calling him a fake Jew.

    This was, in any case, the interpretation one Jon Green attached to the comments made by ex-NH Congresscritter Paul Hodes that Bernie is a "secular Jew" and denying that "his religion influenced his stance on Israel."

    Hodes contrasted this position with that of Hillary, who "has an unshakeable bond with Israel". (Really!?)

    You may wonder, as I did, why Hodes took it on himself to speak about how a candidate's religion affects support for Israel. It turns out Hodes is Jewish, which I didn't know. I suppose that explains something, although I'm not sure what.

    And for what it's worth: the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which originated the story, quotes the Clinton campaign as later denying that it plans to attack Sanders on his Israel policy.

    (But as with all things Clinton: the understood postscript to the denial is: "… unless it's perceived to be in her political interest to do so.")

  • On the flip side:

    TV host Glenn Beck attacked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Thursday, saying “too many people are looking at Trump and believing that man has ever opened a Bible … that’s the biggest crock of bullcrap I’ve ever heard.”

    Phony Jews, phony Christians. We're up to our eyeballs in 'em.

  • And then there's stuff like this, from the Communications Director of the Jeb Bush campaign:

    At Hot Air, Allahpundit screams "Oh, the inanity!"

    I thought this election was about nationalism and populism. How’d we get from that to whether it’s appropriate to employ Skinemax actresses and listen to NWA in the span of a day?

    And how is it, with Republicans suddenly throwing roundhouses at each other over “values” in South Carolina, that Donald Trump, of all people, is the main beneficiary?

    In an update, Tim Miller explains/responds (in part):

    My point was this: for years Marco has been doing interviews with outlets that target younger voters where he highlights his knowledge of rap, his favorite movies (Pulp Fiction) and other cultural touchstones. Then all of a sudden, 2 weeks before the Iowa caucus, he begins adding into his stump speech a lament about the values that movies and music are shoving down our throats.

    Miller dubs Rubio's NWA (New Wholesomeness Argument) to be "an obviously phony pander worthy of a cheeky tweet".

  • On still yet another hand… Roger L. Simon had the chance to observe the private behavior of one of the candidates in New Hampshire, post-debate. Roger deems him the opposite of phony. In fact, the word mensch is used, high personal praise.

    No spoilers here. Goest thou and readest the thing in its entirety.

The Adventure of the Unfortunate Juxtapositon

… in my Amazon "Recommendations for you, Paul": Unfortunate
Juxtaposition

No, Raylan! He's one of the good guys!

Bernie: Liar or Fool?

Or both? Could be both.

I was, of course, happy to see Hillary thoroughly trounced in the New Hampshire Primary. But that's the good news. The bad news is the trouncer was Bernie Sanders.

Here's just one little thing I noticed in Bernie's victory speech:

Now, what the American people understand is that our great country was based on a simple principal [sic], and that principle is fairness.

This assertion is pretty easy to check given the "Find" functionality in your favorite web browser.

Bernie wants to paint his agenda as patriotic, rooted in bedrock all-American fundament. That assertion is based in deception or delusion (or, possibly, both).

I am not sure what valid arguments could be made in support of what I take to be Bernie's overall campaign points:

  • The Federal Government is hopelessly in thrall to the plutocratic wealthy;

  • So we should give the Federal Government vastly more money and power.

I am depressed that so many people see Bernie as a hero and "democratic" socialism as a swell idea.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Free Fire

[Amazon Link]

Another fine outing for C. J. Box's game warden hero, Joe Pickett. I am disappointed that I didn't notice Box's fine talent sooner. This is number 7 in his Pickett series, from 2007, and number 16 is coming out next month. The algorithm managing my to-be-read pile rules, though.

As the book opens, however, Joe has been shitcanned from his game warden job. He has honest work with his wife's mother's husband, but it's not really what he was born to do. A shot at getting back to it arrives by jet, in the person of the newly-elected maverick Wyoming governor. A nasty multiple murder has been committed in Yellowstone by a sleazy lawyer, and due to a big loophole in the jurisdictional hodgepodge and Constitutional rules, he has walked scot-free.

One of the victims wrote a mysterious letter to the Governor just prior to his demise. Joe is rehired to perform a secret, barely-official investigation to see if there's anything the National Park Service and the local law authorities missed. (Hint: yes, they did.) The Governor has noticed something about Joe: he's scrupulously honest, and has an uncanny knack for (discovering|blundering into) the dangerous truth.

Joe also has personal issues with Yellowstone dating back to his youth, and a subplot takes an unexpected and poignant turn. (Joe's wife and kids have relatively small roles here, compared to other books.)

Much of the book describes the natural (but dangerous) wonders of Yellowstone, and sent me scurrying to the Google to learn more about them.

2016 New Hampshire Primary Stuff

What follows is a hodgepodge of random spindle-clearing primary-related crap. I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading here.

  • I attended a gathering of political junkies at the Manchester NH Radisson last Saturday night sponsored by National Review. I had previously attended in 2008 and 2012. This event is great fun, and recommended to anyone in the area who's interested.

    This year's event was run by publisher Jack Fowler, and scheduled to wrap around the GOP debate being held down the road a bit at St. Anselm's. It led off with a general discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, Tim Alberta, and "Indispensable" Jim Geraghty. (Mr. Geraghty is not only indispensable, he's also quite funny on his feet.) Those three gave way to an NR/Ricochet-sponsored panel composed of Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, and John Podhoretz for pre- and post-debate analysis and commentary. (Mr. Podhoretz is editor of Commentary magazine, so he's good at that.)

    I got my fanboy on by speaking briefly with Charles C. W. Cooke (I was able to tell him I liked his book very much), and Jack Fowler (who I hope I was able to impress by telling him I've been an NR reader for nearly 50 years.)

    As in previous years, I did not stay for the whole thing. (My ass flattens easily, I wouldn't have watched the debate had I been home, and the road back to Pun Salad Manor was long and dark.)

    Thanks much to National Review, and also to Skip Murphy and the other Granite Grok denizens I got to meet and sit next to.

  • Speaking of John Podhoretz, I thought his New York Post column on the NH results was insightful. After summarizing the key messaging of the winners, Trump and Sanders:

    Simple, straightforward and catchy — that’s the key. And none of it is your fault. Everything bad that’s happening, everything that makes you nervous and worried and uncertain about the future, is the result of a great wrong that is being done to you.

    JPod sees this election cycle as "the payback election — America at its worst."

    I hope he's wrong, fear he's correct.

  • Also insightful are Nick Gillespie and Joshua Swain writing at Reason, leading with this bit of trivia:

    The winners aren't even real members of the parties for whose nominations they are running.

    Nick and Joshua try to put a nice libertarian ("socially liberal and fiscally conservative") spin on this, but it's not very convincing. (Insightful, but unconvincing, is an unusual combination, but Nick and Joshua hit it.)

  • If you're feeling depressed about the results: here's (my close personal friend) Dave Barry’s 8 funniest lines from the New Hampshire primaries.

  • A little self-deprecation is in order. I took a free online course from the University Near Here on the New Hampshire primary. It was fun. Part of it involved participating on online discussions, one of which requested us to prognosticate.

    My predictions, made on November 27, 2015:

    1. Trump and Clinton will win New Hampshire. Rubio will come in a strong second.
    2. Sanders and O'Malley will win nowhere, and drop out before March 31.
    3. On the strength of his NH showing, Rubio will become the default non-Trump candidate, and other candidates will fade. Since Trump has such high negatives, he won't have a shot at the nomination, and Rubio gets it.
    4. The Rubio/Fiorina ticket ekes out a narrow win in November against Clinton/Castro.

    Practically couldn't have been more wrong! In my (slight) defense, predicting a Hillary win, in late November, was not as stupid as it sounds now. (See the Real Clear Politics polling history.) And who could have guessed that Rubio would self-immolate in the St. Anselm's debate?

    Still, I think the lesson is clear: I am not the guy you want to go to for accurate political predictions.

  • I remain mystified by Kasich's second-place showing. My best guess was in a twitter reply I made to Matt Welch last month:
  • And for another vaguely-primary related UNH connection, we had a famous campus visitor:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another movie that I liked more than I thought I would. That's always a nice thing to say. Back as a young 'un, I used to watch the TV show of the same name. Since I was an idiot (more accurately: a bigger idiot than I am now) I thought that was how the spy game actually worked. Learning otherwise was like finding out about Santa.

It is an origin story, set in the deep Cold War days. Dapper spy (and ex-thief) Napoleon Solo is sent into East Berlin to extract the beautiful auto mechanic Gaby into the West. Hoping to stop him is the KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin. Kuryakin is (of course) a formidable foe, but Solo barely escapes with Gaby.

There's a motive for Gaby's extraction: her father is a genius scientist who's worked out a new design for a nuclear bomb. And, unfortunately, he's developing it for a gang of criminals who want to sell it to everyone's favorite villains, the Nazis. Of course, Kuryakin gets roped back in as the CIA and KGB decide to collaborate in order to thwart this outcome.

Solo and Kuryakin initially loathe and distrust each other, and their relationship is a series of verbal barbs and one-upmanship. Of course, this feud develops quickly into a bromance. This works better than it has any right to. Also appearing is a dapper Brit, Waverly: anyone remembering the TV show knows that he'll eventually work things out.

There's some fancy cinematography, which I was indifferent toward.

The Phony Campaign

2016-02-07 Update

Our PredictWise-based 2% probability criterion demands no lineup changes this week. And (once again) the only change to our ordering is the Bush/Rubio swap of fifth/sixth place. Yawn.

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-01-31
"Donald Trump" phony 108,000 -252,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 98,100 -103,900
"Ted Cruz" phony 66,600 -91,400
"Bernie Sanders" phony 66,500 -31,400
"Marco Rubio" phony 53,300 -5,800
"Jeb Bush" phony 38,800 -28,900

But there's always fresh phony news to report:

  • Rubio might get a phony bump soon based on his debate performance last night; specifically his back-and-forth with Chris Christie (detailed at the NR Corner by David French) was inauthentic in a bizarre way.

    Marco Rubio’s already-famous exchange with Chris Christie was indeed a brutal moment. I still can’t believe that Rubio went back to the same talking point right after Christie called him on it. Watching it real-time, I honestly wondered if Rubio forgot what he just said. When he started to do the same thing a third time, I couldn’t believe my ears. Christie wasn’t masterful — not by any means — Rubio just served him the worst kind of hanging curve.

    Video at link. I swear, Rubio's responses seemed like they were generated by a buggy AI program that mistakenly worked itself into a tight loop.

  • To my ears, Donald Trump had a bad debate. When Mary Katherine Ham challenged him to distinguish his health care reform ideas from single-payer advocate Bernie Sanders … as Peter Suderman notes, "Trump claims he’s for common sense, and the proceeds to not make much sense at all." Trump's answer is quoted in full at the link.

    The obvious takeaway from this response is that Trump not only has no plan to replace Obamacare, he has idea what he’s talking what he’s talking about when it comes to health care policy, and doesn’t care that he’s clueless. It tells us nothing at all about health care, but it does tell us about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign.

  • In the debate, Trump also maintained his advocacy of eminent domain, trying very hard to blur the distinction between (a) Constitution-based takings (with just compensation, for public use), and (b) grabbing an elderly widow's house and land in order to build a casino's limousine parking lot. (Jeb Bush, of all people, was good on this.)

    A RedState contributor quotes Trump's response and begins commentary with

    Here Trump shows that he is either totally unaware of what eminent domain entails or he’s a duplicitous f*** who thinks you are stupid.

    [Frog? Face? Fowl? Fawn? Feeb? Fern? Fink? Fish? Fake? Oh, yeah, I guess it's "fake".]

  • Speaking of AI, some DOD whiz kids should figure out how to program Kevin D. Williamson's writing style into terrorist-hunting drones. When Kevin picks a target, he is deadly accurate and merciless. Today's example keys off this tweet from Terry Shumaker, New Hampshire lawyer, longtime Clinton sycophant:

    Kevin:

    Hillary Rodham Clinton is not qualified to be president of the United States of America, because she doesn’t know what the United States of America are.

    Terry Shumaker, former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad (I wonder what that gig cost him) and current abject minion in the service of Mrs. Clinton, quotes Herself telling an audience in New Hampshire: “Service is the rent we pay for living in this great country.”

    There is a very old English word for people who are required to perform service as a rent for their existence, and that word is serf. Serfdom is a form of bondage.

    It gets better from there, so please RTWT.

    I was reluctant to put this in a phony campaign post, because this seems to be one of those rare times when Hillary reveals how she really thinks. But… <voice imitation="Doc Brown"> well, I figured, what the hell? </voice>

  • And I don't want to turn this into an too-National Review-based post, but Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week was pretty perceptive on the "authentic" Bernie Sanders. It's titled "Hillary’s Sincerity Problem", and it's about that too, but that's fish-in-barrel stuff. Jonah notes that in all Bernie's railing against the "rigged system", he's mystifyingly reluctant to make some obvious points:

    Bernie Sanders has to believe Hillary Clinton is part of the problem. But he won’t say so, save to prattle on about Clinton’s super PACs and speaking fees. That’s amateur-hour stuff. It’s academic-seminar-level griping, not revolution-fomenting. He wants to talk about the system, but he won’t do what is minimally required to change it. And right now, the first step on that long road is steamrolling Hillary Clinton. It’s like saying you want to do whatever it takes to fight malaria, but refusing to say much about the huge, sprawling, and fetid marshlands in the middle of downtown. The Clintons are swamp creatures, taking what they need and leaving in their retromingent wake the stench of corruption.

    Definition of "retromingent" here. You're welcome.

  • Does Trump have a couple of things right about the phony Cruz? Find out the shocking answer in Jennifer Rubin's Trump has a couple of things right about the phony Cruz.

    Donald Trump may not know Russian President Vladimir Putin is implicated in a killing or that “paying for everyone’s health care” is essentially single-payer, universal health care. Nevertheless, he does know something about dealing with other people, and in that regard is the perfect combatant to take on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who knows virtually nothing about that.

    Ms. Rubin doesn't care for Trump, but she flat-out despises Ted Cruz.

Director's Cut

[Amazon Link]

I've been reading Roger L. Simon's Moses Wine novels since The Big Fix back in the 1970s. I'm glad to (finally) read his latest.

You could make the case I've been procrastinating: Amazon helpfully reminds me: "You purchased this item on February 5, 2010.". Yes, about 6 years ago. And it was written back in 2003. This is how up-to-date I am with my reading. Fortunately, my to-be-read pile never forgets, unless I want it to.

Moses has settled into domesticated Hollywood tranquility (and professional partnership) with his new wife Samantha. His connections with the film community land him a new gig: figuring out who is menacing the production of Prague Autumn, an "arty" film about the Holocaust and its echoes into the present day. And Moses jets off to—guess where—Prague, where the production is filming on location. Pretty soon, murder and kidnapping. Also some explosions. Unexpected events catapult Moses into an unexpected role.

We get a lot of information about the sausage-making involved in creating a movie and bringing it to the masses. Roger L. Simon is also involved in the film industry, so I assume he's leveraging some of his own experiences.

Moses has (sort of) followed Roger L. Simon's own political pilgrimage: from 70's radical to semi-moderate. (I don't think Moses has gone as far as Roger, who I think of as on "our side".)

Frankly, Moses seems outwitted and passive through most of the book; I usually prefer a different sort of private-eye protagonist. The book is also marred by sloppy proofreading. I noticed four mistakes, and I wasn't looking for them, so I assume there are more.

Match

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A decent little movie, with Patrick Stewart playing someone who isn't a starship captain or heroic mutant leader.

Instead, he plays Tobi Powell, famous ex-dancer, currently a ballet instructor at Julliard. He's seemingly flamboyant and extroverted in public, but in private he's an odd duck. He saves his nail clippings in a jar on his mantle; his hobby is knitting.

Tobi, by the way, allegedly grew up on a pig farm in Maine, but that Maine accent is nowhere to be seen. (Patrick Stewart didn't try to do a French accent when he was Jean-Luc in Star Trek either. Maybe he doesn't do accents.)

Anyway, he agrees to an interview request from Lisa (Carla Gugino), (ostensibly) a graduate student from Oregon, assisted by her husband Mike (Matthew Lillard). Things go smoothly at first: they meet in a local diner, have some booze and party mix, then move to Tobi's apartment, have more booze, some hash, and more party mix. And it becomes apparent that Lisa and Mike have ulterior motives, as they start asking some increasingly nosy questions. And before you can say "Well, I thought something like that was going on", revelations occur, souls are bared, and cheeks are forcibly swabbed.

IMDB bills this as a comedy/drama, and there are some funny bits. I thought it felt like an adapted play while I was watching, and (sure enough) it was.

All three primary actors do a fantastic job in their roles. I'm not sure the plot stands up to scrutiny, but that's OK.